Lake Forest woman’s hobby gains notice
Lake Forest resident Mary Ley, who recently showed a quilt at the quilt expo in Madison, Wis., holds a quilt she made named Bits and Pieces. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media
Mary E. Ley
Vocation/Area of Expertise: Teacher, homemaker
Education: Edgewood College
Words to live by: “Live, love, pray, enjoy.”
Updated: September 17, 2012 11:08AM
LAKE FOREST — Mary Ley’s love affair began almost 20 years ago. It started out innocently, but before too long she came across something exotic.
“I’m absolutely addicted to batik fabrics,” she said. “They come from Indonesia, Bali, all over the place. They’re hand-dyed and they come in vibrant colors. It’s not a traditional look.”
Ley uses this striking fabric for her numerous quilting projects — since she started up in 1993, she estimates she’s completed about 80 quilts.
It would be safe to say that Ley’s gotten pretty good over the years. One of her most recent projects, which she calls “Mildred and Waldo,” was accepted in the 2012 Quilt Expo quilt contest, part of the eighth annual Quilt Expo held last weekend in Madison, Wis. Though she didn’t win an award, she was one of only 320 gifted amateur and professional quilters at the event.
The festival was a homecoming for Ley, who raised her family in Madison, but moved to Lake Forest in 2004 when her husband was transferred to a new position in his company. It was in Madison, after seeing a neighbor hard at work on a quilt, that she learned to love quilting.
“After that, I took a quilting class,” she said. “They never thought I would last because I’m so hyper and Type A. But it was an escape and I found it really relaxing. I love piecing and I love selecting fabric and working the design.”
This escape often takes the form of intricate patterns, bold colors and a departure from the log cabin quilt norm, which was present in her expo quilt.
“[Mildrid and Waldo] is a log cabin quilt, but it’s not like your grandmother’s log cabin,” Ley said. “Log cabin quilt color schemes tend to go light-dark, light-dark. This one turns every which way.”
The modern, fluid approach is typical for Ley, who said she doesn’t even buy all of the fabric she needs for a project until everything comes together.
“A good quilter doesn’t buy all the fabric for the quilt for all the borders,” she said. “You should never buy that until you’ve got all the blocks together and see the top of the quilt. Then you’ll see what you want. Once I get started, I can’t wait to see it all come together.”
Once her quilts are complete, Ley sometimes keeps them for herself — but more often, she creates quilts for friends and family, occasionally selling them by popular demand.
“I have four grandchildren and a fifth on the way, and each one of them got a newborn quilt when they were born” she said. “I gave my mom a quilt for her 90th birthday that was made from pieces of fabric everyone in the family had drawn memories on — I put them all together into the quilt. She loved that quilt her until her dying day.”